A woman training for an ultra-marathon found herself trapped in a creek beneath a roof of snow for about three hours at Sequoia National Park, but survived the ordeal thanks to some passing hikers.
The unidentified 52-year-old from Squaw Valley, California, headed down the Farewell Gap Trail in the Mineral King section of the park Tuesday, according to a park press release.
On her way up Farewell Canyon she crossed a snow bridge over Franklin Creek and continued on. However, on her return the snow bridge collapsed, dropping her into the creek, which swept her 30-40 feet downstream under the snow, the release said.
After coming to a stop, "she stood up in the creek under the snow with no access to the surface. Using her hands, she dug through approximately 5 feet of snow and created a small hole at the surface," the release explained. "She threw her backpack out of the hole, where it was seen by another party who went to examine it and found the woman under the snow nearby."
While the woman was "hypothermic and incoherent" when rescued by the other hikers about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, she was warmed up by some members of the party while one hiker went for help.
"Upon notification of the incident, the park helicopter (with a medic) and a ranger (on foot) were dispatched to the scene," the release continued. "When rangers arrived, the woman declined evacuation or medical assistance. She was assisted to the trailhead by a ranger."
Park officials note that anyone interested in visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks should be aware that there is still quite a bit of snow at elevations above 7,000 feet, and conditions are expected to last well into the summer due to record snowfall this winter followed by a very cool, wet spring.
"Rivers in the parks have not crested yet and will do so later than in normal years. Visitors to higher elevations face conditions more similar to late winter or early spring than would be expected at this time of the year," they add. "Many trails that normally open in June are still completely covered by snow, and many creek crossings are not passable. Park visitors interested in accessing higher elevations are encouraged to modify their trip plans accordingly."